Bring Me the Vampire (1963)

BRING ME THE VAMPIRE (1963)
aka ECHENME AL VAMPIRO
Article 1974 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-10-2006
Posting Date: 1-7-2007
Directed by Alfredo B. Crevenna and Alberto Mariscal
Featuring Maria Eugenia San Martin, Carlos Requelme, Hector Godoy

A group of heirs to a massive fortune are lured by a ghost to a spooky house where they have to stay to collect the money. They begin dying one by one.

Forget the vampire – after this one, you’ll want someone to bring you an aspirin. It’s a horror comedy with an “old dark house” setting, with ghosts, a vampire, talking skeletons and mummies all thrown into the mix. But, unlike PHANTOM OF THE RED HOUSE (another Mexican “old dark house” comedy with a surprsing amount of good laughs in it), this one is shrill, desperate, annoying and utterly unfunny. It does manage to dredge up a bit of mood in a few scenes, and it does have one good scare (involving a dinner tray), but these moments are hardly enough to save me from considering it the nadir of the Mexican horror genre. Granted, I’m sure a lot of what’s awful about it is the horrendous dubbing, but I suspect that it’s not that much better in its own language. The story is thoroughly confusing, and the ending is just unbelievable. When a movie makes me wish that I was watching the Ritz Brothers in THE GORILLA, you know it’s bad.

 

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The Baby (1973)

THE BABY (1973)
Article 1973 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-9-2006
Posting Date: 1-6-2007
Directed by Ted Post
Featuring Anjanette Comer, Ruth Roman, Marianna Hill

A social worker takes charge of a case involving a full grown man who is supposed to be mentally deficient; his mother and two sisters keep him in diapers and a crib, and treat him like a baby. She suspects that there may be more here than meets the eye, and decides to investigate.

Whatever else you can say about it, there’s no doubt that this movie is pretty sick, even if it rated no worse than PG on its release in this country. It should come as no surprise that the family that harbors the baby is not mentally well; part of the mystery of this movie is discovering just how unwell they are, compounded with the discovery that they may not be the only ones. The sickness of the movie (and a very good and logical final twist) are the movie’s best attributes, but sadly, the movie never really becomes compelling, and it fails to build up any suspense; the sequence where the family invades the social worker’s home is quite dull. The acting is also rather uneven, with David Mooney (in the potentially embarassing title role) coming off best. The movie is not without a certain degree of interest, but I doubt I’ll be watching it again.

 

Menace from Outer Space (1956)

MENACE FROM OUTER SPACE (1956)
Article 1972 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-8-2006
Posting Date: 1-5-2007
Directed by Hollingsworth Morse
Featuring Richard Crane, Scotty Beckett, Sally Mansfield

When a comet heading towards the earth turns out to be a missile from a far-off moon, Rocky Jones and crew decide to visit the planet to investigate the possibility of new energy sources. However, he finds resistance in the form of a runaway criminal from Earth and an invasion by a hostile planet.

Despite the turgid pace and the sometimes silly dialogue (“Right as Rockets!”), I always thought the Rocky Jones series showed a bit more in the way of smarts than a lot of other juvenile science fiction from the period. This one has some real surprises right off the bat; it looks like they went on location for part of the story, with Professor Newton puttering around what looks like an honest-to-goodness real observatory, and with certain scenes that take place out of doors. The latter is a real surprise; almost everything else I’ve seen for the show was obviously shot in the studio. Still, I couldn’t help but notice that, even though the series took place in the distant future, the cars look an awful lot like the ones from the fifties.

As usual, this one is entertaining enough if you’re willing to be patient and attuned to the fact that you’re watching three episodes of a TV series strung together. The first half of this one plays off a bit like ROCKETSHIP X-M, and then becomes a bit similar to FLIGHT TO MARS before going off on its own tangent. This one is one of my favorites of the series, but if you’re not a Rocky Jones fan, I doubt that it will do much for you.

 

The Angel Levine (1970)

THE ANGEL LEVINE (1970)
Article 1971 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-7-2006
Posting Date: 1-4-2007
Directed by Jan Kadar
Featuring Zero Mostel, Harry Belafonte, Ida Kaminska

A Jew on the verge of losing his faith after suffering several setbacks is visited by a black man who claims to be his guardian angel. Unfortunately, the angel can’t do anything to help him unless the Jew believes in him, and this won’t come easy…

I enjoy looking at the distribution of user ratings on IMDB because they can actually tell you a lot about the movie. Of those that have rated this movie, roughly half give it the very top rating. The rest of the voters follow the classic bell curve, one which peaks at the five-out-of-ten level. This seems to indicate that you’ll either love the movie, or have very little use for it.

I can certainly understand the different reactions. The movie is unique and powerful, but it’s also somewhat muddled, and it has a way of confounding a viewer’s preconceptions (about angels and how movies like this should end in particular) in ways that aren’t much fun. It is an interesting meditation on the nature of faith, and the way that one person’s state of mind can change the fates of those around him. Great performances abound, particularly from Mostel and Kaminski, and it’s always interesting to watch a movie where you really don’t know just how things will pan out. But it’s definitely capable of alienating the viewer, especially the ending.

 

The Mask (1961)

THE MASK (1961)
Article 1970 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-6-2006
Posting Date: 1-3-2007
Directed by Julian Roffman
Featuring Paul Stevens, Claudette Nevins, Bill Walker

A psychiatrist has a patient who believes he has been lured into committing murder by an evil mask. When the patient commits suicide, the psychiatrist receives the mask in the mail. He decides to try it on for himself…

Let’s get right down to the main attraction of this movie; when it was shown in theaters, the audience were supposed to put on their 3D glasses whenever they heard the phrase “Put the mask on NOW!”, and they would be treated to some of the trippiest 3-D horror sequences they’ve ever seen. I have to give the movie credit; these sequences are truly bizarre, full of unsettling and grotesque images, and with a nightmarish stream-of-consciousness technique. If the movie was to be judged on these sequences alone, it would have been great.

Unfortunately, there’s not only the rest of the movie to contend with, there’s also the problem with how these scenes fit into the context of the movie. The movie would like to see itself as a psychological thriller, but there really isn’t much in the way of psychology on display here. The script is fairly weak and obvious, and the nightmare sequences never really effectively hook up with the rest of the story, which is to say that all those nightmarish images never really gain a relevance; they remain little more than scary images.

Probably the worst problem with the movie is the middle section. Once the psychiatrist tries on the mask for the first time, he is so totally changed by the mask that we know he’s going to start killing people once he opens his mouth. The trouble is, it takes him the rest of the movie to get around to it. It would have worked a lot better had the changes to the psychiatrist’s personality been more gradual, with each donning of the mask bringing him closer to madness. This would have required either a more subtle script and more nuanced acting from the actor playing the psychiatrist, but such is not the case. As a result, the movie as a whole falls flat. Still, everyone should have a look at those trippy nightmare sequences at least once.

 

Lady Frankenstein (1971)

LADY FRANKENSTEIN (1971)
aka LA FIGLIA DI FRANKENSTEIN
Article 1969 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-5-2006
Posting Date: 1-2-2007
Directed by Mel Welles and Aureeliano Luppi
Featuring Joseph Cotten, Rosalba Neri, Paul Muller

Frankenstein’s daughter gets a medical degree so she can help her father with his transplant experiments. When her father is killed by his own creation, she undertakes to continue his experiments on her own.

You know, for a sleazy low-budget stab at the Frankenstein story, this isn’t half bad; I find it a lot more palatable than FRANKENSTEIN’S CASTLE OF FREAKS, for example. It has its problems, of course. The character of the monster isn’t particularly well handled; though the dialogue talks about him consciously doing away with everyone responsible for him being a monster, he never acts in any way other than a mindless killing machine, and that is a disappointing choice. The movie ups the exploitation elements; there is quite a bit of gratuitous nudity here. The odd thing I find about his nudity is that it doesn’t start cropping up until Joseph Cotten’s character is dead; now I know that movies aren’t necessarily shot in order, but it made me feel as if maybe they didn’t want their name star to know just how sleazy the movie was going to be; this is probably just imagination on my part. Still, one of the most memorable scenes in the movie is sleazy and downright perverse, and that is when they decide to kill a handyman for the use of his body, and they do so at a very specific moment. The movie also features Mickey Hargitay, and was co-directed by Gravis Mushnik from THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.

 

Jungle Jim (1948)

JUNGLE JIM (1948)
Article 1968 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-4-2006
Posting Date: 1-1-2007
Directed by William A. Berke
Featuring Johnny Weissmuller, Virginia Grey, George Reeves

Jungle Jim is hired to lead an expedition into the jungle to find a lost temple. It is believed that a poison can be found at this temple that can lead to a cure for polio.

Okay, you’ve got Johnny Weissmuller, newly retired from the Tarzan series, and you want to star him in a fresh new series of jungle movies. Naturally, you want to start off the series putting your best foot forward to ensure success, so you decide you’ll have to come up with something extra-special for the plot. So, naturally, you decide upon…a Double-Stuffed Safari-O? For those unfamiliar with the term, I define a Double-Stuffed Safari-O thusly; it is any jungle movie which features exposition on one end, denoument on the other, and is filled in-between with an overly-generous portion of safari. I always take this plot as being the writer’s way of saying that they had no idea in how to fill in the middle of the story.

The safari section does serve some functions, though; it leaves plenty of time for animal antics and establishing that the woman (who is obviously intruding on a man’s world) can’t really hack it in this environment and needs a man to help her out (aka Jungle Jim). Probably the most novel thing the movie does is that it gives Jungle Jim two animal friends, and neither one is a chimp. One is a dog (which, as a pet in a jungle movie, is singularly lame), but the other is a raven (or a crow; I could never tell them apart). Though these pets wouldn’t persist throughout the entire series, I’ve run into them before, and once again, the dog proves near useless (man’s best friend indeed!), while the raven is the one who proves most useful in saving lives. Still, those willing to endure the safari section of the movie will find that the ending is pretty good, and fans of the “The Adventures of Superman” will get a chance to see George Reeves as the villain of the piece. Other than that, it’s pretty routine; elephant stampedes, animal antics, lion wrestling, same ol’, same ol’.